“The Guilty” by David Baldacci sees the return of Will Robie and his partner Jessica Reel. Baldacci is able to create realistic plots, allows the reader to understand the essence of a CIA operative/sniper, and has characters that are sympathetic as well as admirable. In this latest installment Robie’s backstory is explored and is brilliantly intertwined within an action-packed plot.
The plot begins, as Robie, a black ops CIA sniper, is unable to complete his assignment and pull the trigger. Given an opportunity to straighten his head he must confront his painful past that includes a strained relationship with his father. Having left just after high school Will has not returned for over twenty years. He has regrets about his relationship with his father and having left behind the girl he wanted to marry. As he tries to understand his current feelings, Will must come to grips with his emotional reaction to hearing his father has been arrested for murder in the Gulf Coast town of Cantrell, Mississippi. The setting fits in perfectly, creating an atmosphere of a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. After returning he and Jessica Reel are confronted by a serial killer who does not want him to get answers regarding his father’s murder charge.
Unlike Frederick Forsyth’s famous assassin, The Jackal, Baldacci’s assassins, Robie and Reel, are caring and have a conscious. But throughout the first part of the book it becomes obvious that there are times when snipers must kill for the common good. Powerful quotes illustrates this point, “Like Hitler before him, he had the extraordinary ability to whip his followers into a frenzy of such devotion that they would commit any atrocity he ordered… But ‘to kill’ was different that ‘to murder.’”
Baldacci noted to blackfive.net, “Since I made Will’s profession as an assassin it became quite a challenge to have people root for him and not against him. Will has humanity and does not just act as a robot. He does not kill purely for pay, but believes in what he is doing. He takes a life for the greater good and to protect society. We should appreciate that it is necessary for these professionals to work in anonymity. It means no one ever hears about what was done unless something goes bad. I did a lot of research, spending some time with the Rangers in Fort Benning, Ga. While on the sniper range I fired just about every weapon out there. I saw that optics is their whole world. At one point my target was 1800 meters away. At that range weather, wind, topography, patience, and fatigue become factors.”
Yet, the most potent parts of the book involve relationships. Robie and Reel have professional and personal trust between them that includes respect. This becomes evident when she tells Will, “You’ve got me, Robie. And I’ve got you. And while we might fall sometimes, together, well, together we are unbeatable.” This is the complete opposite of his relationship with his father. Their interactions are tense, defiant, and full of anger. Will is accused by his dad of forsaking his past and family, which is why Will’s father treats him as an outsider.
The author hopes readers get out of the book that “challenges from the past, which are never confronted and resolved, will affect your present life. Most of us have that going on in our lives. An issue can come back to haunt you at a future time. I like writing characters that have an emotional or physical challenge that can either make them stronger or weaker.”
The author also gave a heads up about his next few books. Out in April will be a sequel to “Memory Man,” featuring Amos Decker. The plot involves the world of football, where Amos tackles a case about a man falsely imprisoned for life. In the fall he will bring back John Puller, the military CID investigator.
“The Guilty” explores how decisions made in the past can impact someone’s present life. Through an action packed plot that has many twists and turns readers are able to understand the dynamics of relationships and the realities of what a CIA operative/sniper must go through professionally and emotionally.